The Giant of Provence
Elevation 1909m / 6263ft
Average grade: 7.6 %
Maximum: 12 %
Location: Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur
Fresh from watching the newly released movie ‘First man’ in my favorite movie theater in Carpentras, a small village in south-east France, I decided it was about time to go and try to get my moon.
I’m not a professional athlete and I haven’t done much cycling either, but I just had to tick it off my list and prove myself that I could do it.
The ‘beast’ -as it has been nicknamed- is 1912m high and it’s visible from almost anywhere in the Vaucluse-Provence area, due also to the fact that it stands alone without similar mountain ranges nearby.
The summit derives its fame as well from having been ten times the finish line on Tour De France, and from having claimed the life of Tom Simpson, a British cyclist, during the race in 1967. Venteux means wind in French, indeed the riding is often challenging due to the strong ‘mistral’ that blows at about 90+ km/h (56+ mph) most days of the year.
I left after the usual coffee ritual in a sunny morning in October from Carpentras – 20km from Bédoin- which is the starting point of the most famous and difficult ascent. From there the riding distance to the summit is 21,8km at an average grade of 7.8%, that becomes not less than 9% toward the end, and un unforgiving peak of 12% at the very last bit.
I was with two other friends of mine, we didn’t do any research beforehand, I just grabbed my toolbox kit (tire lever, mini pump, spare tube), sunglasses and Clif bars.
The first km I thought in my mind c’mon this is not too bad!- the fall colors were so beautiful, the air so clean and crisps and I was just happy to be on the bike witnessing all the beauty around me. You couldn’t see the summit in the forestry part, but you knew it was there, ‘few’ km away.
I decided that I would not get off the bike until I reached the top, but at half my bidon of water (-14km to go), I discovered that it would be a very hard decision to maintain. The stone on the side of the road marked the distance to go and it always seemed too far.
Yet, I did not quit and with 4km only to separate me from the summit I could see the white observatory arise in the barren, almost lunar landscape.
Last 3, 2, 1km… what a view!
“Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed”